Sizing John and Djakadam set for Punchestown showdown

Willie Mullins says Sandown’s Tingle Creek remains Douvan’s most likely target

 Robbie Power riding Sizing John (R) pips Djakadam (L) to claim the Punchestown Gold Cup last  April. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Robbie Power riding Sizing John (R) pips Djakadam (L) to claim the Punchestown Gold Cup last April. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

 

A mouth-watering clash between the new 2017 ‘Horse of the Year’ Sizing John and the history-seeking Djakadam is on the card for Sunday’s John Durkan Chase at Punchestown.

Djakadam has won the €85,000 Grade One feature for the last two years and no horse has ever before won the Durkan three times.

However the hat-trick seeker will have to take on no less than Sizing John who completed the unprecedented Triple Crown of Irish Gold Cup, Cheltenham Gold Cup and Punchestown Gold Cup last season.

That earned the Jessica Harrington trained star ‘Horse of the Year’ status at Tuesday’s HRI Awards where Harrington appeared almost relieved at having skipped a trip to Haydock for the recent Betfair Chase.

“He’s A1 and going to Punchestown. He was A1 for Haydock too but three miles on heavy ground, and with the travelling, it just didn’t work out.

“Hindsight is wonderful and I don’t mind him going two and a half miles on heavy at this stage of the season. He’s definitely going,” she said.

A total of 14 remain in the Durkan including Douvan who also holds weekend entries in Sandown’s Tingle Creek on Saturday and the Kerry Group Hilly Chase at Cork a day later.

Willie Mullins had already indicated the Tingle Creek is Douvan’s most likely port of call with Djakadam going to the Durkan and he said on Tuesday: “That’s the plan at the moment and I don’t see the plan changing.”

Exhilarating finish

Djakadam and Sizing John provided an exhilarating finish to last April’s Punchestown Gold Cup when separated by just a short head. Prior to that the Harrington star had finished over three lengths in front of his rival at Cheltenham.

Another of Mullins’s chase stars, Un De Sceaux, also holds entries in the Tingle Creek, Durkan and Hilly Way but appears more likely to take his chance in the Cork race which has ten left in it including the English-trained Top Gamble.

The weather outlook is for some freezing overnight conditions later this week but the Punchestown authorities are “not overly concerned” at the moment.

Punchestown’s racing manager Richie Galway said: “It is to get colder and we will keep a close eye on it. But the forecast we’re getting at the moment is that on Saturday night into Sunday there will be a change in the weather which will lift the temperatures. It’s still early days but we’re not overly concerned that frost will be an issue.”

Sizing John’s Haydock defection is good news for Punchestown and Galway added: “It’s great to get him. Djakadam loves the race and if we get a repeat of the race they had here at the festival I’m sure everyone will be delighted.”

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